Programs, Programs, Programs


As I posted earlier, this past weekend I reformatted my computer for the first time in awhile. One of the things I do is put together a list of programs that I want to save and reinstall afterward. This time around, this prompted me to take a good look at what I use and research/find if there’s better software out there for my needed purpose.

In general, I was looking for freeware that was as lightweight yet functional as possible (and highly recommended by the internet community). A lot of commercial software these days are very “bloated” of unnecessary stuff, and they cost money for doing an often-subpar job.

Here’s a partial list (alphabetical order) of what I’m currently using, you may find it helpful if you’re looking for good software as well. All selected applications are with Windows XP (32-bit) in mind (because that’s what I use). I’ll assume you can google for the download.

7zip – open source archive utility – a replacement for WinZip and WinRar, which aren’t actually free, and there’s an annoying nag screen to remind you to pay up (yet nobody does). 7zip is a better program that can pretty much do all compression formats (so you don’t need separate programs for various compression formats)

AusLogics Disk Defrag – free Disk Defrag utility that’s faster than what’s included with windows. You should run this periodically – it basically makes your hard drive more efficient by putting data closer together or defragmenting data such that, for the sake of easy examples, all the bits of one file are next to each other instead of mapped all over a hard drive.

CDBurnerXP – Free, easy to use CD/DVD burning software that should be much better than whatever trial bloatware (Roxio anyone??) came with your computer.

Cobian Backup – Free file backup program – it is a program that can be used to schedule and backup your files and directories from their original location to other directories/drives in the same computer or other computers in your network. FTP backup is also supported in both directions (I haven’t tried this yet). Compression and encryption are supported. Full and incremental (only backs up files that changed since the last backup) backups are supported as well. I use this to regularly make backups to an external hard drive. Some prefer a program called SyncBack.

doPDF – PDF converter equivalent to Adobe Distiller(?) – there are many of these out there, but this one is small and free (not shareware) so no “nag” screen and it does a good job. These types of PDF converters work as a printer, so anything you can print, you can choose to “print” to pdf file (doPDF will install as a “printer” on your printer list). Very simple program, no fuss.

DynDNS Updater – Anyone that ever wants to connect to their computer (via Remote Desktop or VNC) should use one of these, especially people on DSL/Cable that get a dynamic IP address (IP address that changes periodically). Basically, you can register a hostname for free (i.e., and a small application, an update agent, will run on your computer and continually map your hostname to your IP address (even if it changes). The update agent will send DynDNS updates when your IP address changes. Thus, when you want to connect to your computer, instead of remembering the often-outdated ip address (i.e. 123.45.678.90), you just need to connect to and it’ll automatically look up what the correct ip address is.

FileZilla – one of the most popular FTP clients out there, and it’s open source and free – alternative to the once-popular commercial CuteFTP – supports FTP, SFTP (SSH FTP), and FTPS (FTP over SSL/TLS). There’s also a server application if you want to run your own FTP server (however, this isn’t that secure, an SSH server, see below, would be better)

Google Chrome – good backup web browser when Firefox dies on me or if somebody else wants to sign onto Gmail and I don’t want to sign-off mine… although I have IE7 for this purpose as well (that I run inside Firefox using “IETab” Firefox add-on)

Google Gears – A Firefox/IE extension that allows you to navigate on compatible websites offline and synchronize when going back online. Especially useful now that Google just announced Gears support in Gmail. Now you can view your email offline and compose emails ready to send when you get back online.

Google Talk – obviously the chat client for the google chat network. I don’t like to chat in Gmail (or in any web browser for that matter). And Pidgin can’t log Gtalk conversations into Gmail.

Ghostscript and GSview – I use this application to view postscript (.ps) files. Interface isn’t that great, but it gets the job done.

Image Resizer Powertoy for Windows XP – quickly right-click on images and re-size them instantly in Windows. You can highlight a bunch of images and re-size them all with a few keystrokes. Useful for fast re-sizing (i.e. I use this when I want to down-size a bunch of photos to email, when quality isn’t an issue anyway)

iTunes – mainly for iPod and iPhone sync, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your opinion of it) has become a default audio player on my desktop

Malwarebytes – alternative to the popular Ad-Aware – I’ve just felt that Ad-Aware has become more and more commercialized and bloated with every new version release. This doesn’t have built-in scheduler, but I wouldn’t run it in the background all the time anyway. Just manually open it and scan your computer from time to time.

Microsoft Digital Image Pro – It’s not Photoshop but it’s really easy-to-use photo editing software that I happened to purchase (for cheap) awhile back. I don’t think they sell it anymore. However, a highly regarded free Photoshop-alternative is called the Gimp.

Microsoft Office 2007 (+ Outlook 2003) – another one of the few non-free programs I have. I do like the new 2007 version of Office.

Mozilla Firefox 3 – Awesome browser. I use many add-ons for Firefox, which I’ll save for another blog post.

PdfEdit995 – I used pdf995 before I started using doPDF as my PDF creator. However, the free version of this has a nag screen (sponsor) so I stopped using PDF995 in that way. However, it has a PDF editing component that I still use mainly to combine multiple documents into a single PDF file. It has many other features as well (such as converting a PDF into a Word doc format with text)

Picasa 3 – Free photo management software and tool to upload albums to Picasa Web Albums. Can be used to do basic photo editting as well.

Pidgin – Open source IM client that supports pretty much all chat networks. I personally use it for AIM, MSN, and Facebook (FB needs a plug-in). I use Google Talk for the Google chat network however.

RealVNC – For those that prefer VNC over RDP (remote desktop). Not very secure, however, so should use it over SSH tunnel (see below). Some prefer TightVNC or UltraVNC because they have more features but RealVNC seemed to support my dual monitor display at home better.

SlingPlayer – This is how I watch TV on my computer. Built-in TV Guide and 60 minute buffer make this really convenient. Only useful if you have access to a SlingBox, of course.

SUPER – Video/Audio encoder/converter that converts basically any video/audio format to any other video/audio format (including video -> audio-only conversion). It is merely a GUI for encoders such as FFmpeg, MEncoder, etc. I use it sometimes to convert .flv (flash) formats (i.e. YouTube) to more conventional formats, especially when I just want audio.

uTorrent – Arguably the most popular BitTorrent client because it is extremely lightweight and efficient, yet has all the features you need.

VLC Media Player – an alternative to Windows Media Player. This thing plays ALL video/audio formats/codecs right “out of the box.” The newest version can even track (i.e. fast forward) flash formats.

WinSSHD + Tunnelier – Fantastic Windows SSH Server (professional commercial software) that has a free Personal Edition; to be run on your main desktop computer. This will allow you to securely log into your computer from anywhere. Supports (via SSH) console, GUI (i.e. remote desktop), SFTP, SCP, and tunneling (port forwarding). Tunnelier is their free SSH file transfer and terminal client that works very well with WinSSHD. This is what you would run on client computers to log into your server computer (you can use other SSH clients of your choice too, of course). I recently discovered this and it works great with almost no complicated configuring. I’ve set this up now such that I can SFTP and remote desktop/VNC to my home desktop from anywhere via a secure SSH tunnel.

Xvid – a popular video compression codec (open source alternative to the once-popular-DivX; in fact it’s DivX spelled backwards). I suppose you don’t really need to install this if you use VLC and SUPER but just in case you want the encoder/decoder for something else… (i.e. Windows Media Player)

I used to run Symantec Client Security since it was free from Berkeley, but I think the real-time protection slows down my computer so I’m currently running without an anti-virus program. It never caught anything anyway in the years that I used it. Just gotta be careful. I’ve heard mixed things about the free anti-virus software options out there..

That’s all folks, hope this is helpful!


3 Responses to “Programs, Programs, Programs”

  1. you are so nerdy 😛


  2. thanks for the info, i definitely agree on a lot of the programs you have listed, but i have yet to use many of the others. favorited in my reader


  3. 3 jt

    I’ve run Avast! antivirus (free, not bloated) without any problems. check that one out.


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